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Why buy… Fairtrade? 

Fairtrade is one of the greatest successes of the ethical consumer movement. In recent years it has become a mainstay on supermarket shelves appearing on food products as diverse as wine and bananas. But what exactly is it and why is it so important?

What is it?

Fairtrade is basically a way of helping farmers in developing countries.

Fairtrade certification is awarded to products that match a number of ethical criteria. Those that match the criteria are awarded the fairtrade label which they can use on their packaging. 

Importantly the companies are all independently audited so you can trust that those who gain the label really deserve it and that those working on farms directly benefit.

Four main benefits of Fairtrade

The benefits buying Fairtrade produce can be broken down into 5 areas.

1.  Fairer trade 

Perhaps most importantly Fairtrade offer a minimum price to producers for their produce.

If prices in the global market drop below this level farmers selling to Fairtrade distributors or companies can be sure they still get a fair price for their bananas and won't slip into poverty or make a loss on each box sold.

2. Environment

Within the Fairtrade standards there are a number of criteria that farmers must adhere to which relate to the environment. These include: 

  • To source water sustainably and reduce water use as much as they can over time.
  • To not use any GMOs
  • To minimise the use of potentially hazardous chemical fertilizers and pesticides

3. Workers rights

The standards also contain criteria on the rights of workers.
These include the right to:

  • freedom of association
  • collective bargaining
  • non discrimination

4. Social 

The Fairtrade price paid by consumers also contains a 'premium'. This is an amount of money on top of the price of the product. This 'premium' is used for investment in local projects and infrastructure such as better sanitation, schools and local medical facilities.

How we cover Fairtrade

Because Ethical Consumer consider Fairtrade to be so important in driving change around the world we award an extra mark in our scoring system to products that carry the Fairtrade label. 

Read more about our scoring system.

Highlights from Ethical Consumer Markets Report 2020

Fairtrade sales increased 13.7% between October 2019 and October 2020 (ahead of total grocery which increased by 9.4%). This is set to strengthen even further as 28% of people plan to purchase Fairtrade in the future, compared to just 15% pre-pandemic.

The market for Fairtrade products was £1,094m in 2010. This grew to £1,603m in 2018 and £1,671m in 2019.

Download the full report for more.

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